Three Lessons Learned From Education Technology Research

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School district administrators and principals are inundated with salespeople peddling computers and software packages. Many declare that scientific research proves their wares work. Can they be believed? The researchers at the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), an agency in the economics department of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, scoured academic journals, the internet, and evaluation databases and discovered the simplest 113 research on the usage of technology in faculties that had been scientifically rigorous.

In the past few years, studies on the educational generation have ended in a clearer imagination and prescient of ways age can affect teaching and mastering. Today, nearly every college in the United States of America uses technology for coaching and mastering, and each kingdom has its customized generation program. In most of those colleges, instructors use the era through included activities that might be part of their daily college curriculum. For example, the instructional age creates lively surroundings wherein college students inquire and define issues of interest to them. Such a pastime could integrate the subjects of generation, social research, math, technological know-how, and language arts with the opportunity to create scholar-focused interest. However, most educational technology professionals agree that technology must be integrated, not as a separate issue or as soon as the mission, but as a tool to promote and increase pupil mastering on a day-by-day foundation.

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“Education technology is a place in which innovation has outpaced rigorous research,” said Vincent Quan, who runs the North American schooling unit at J-PAL. “We desired to discover all the research and distill the principle lessons so that decision-makers can determine which applications to scale up and invest in.” To meet JPAL’s high requirements, the look either had to be a randomized managed trial, in which college students had been randomly decided on to attempt an era and studied along with students who didn’t try it, or it needed to be a “regression discontinuity layout,” in which college students with statistically similar test ratings have been studied. However, those just under a test-rating threshold tried the era, for instance, and people just above it didn’t. Both varieties of research are pricey and typically take two years or more to behavior — time and money that ed-tech entrepreneurs generally don’t have. As a result, technology can grow out of date when the effects pop out.

J-PAL threw out some different quasi-experimental studies. It wasn’t confident that the scholars attempting the era weren’t already better attaining or more inspired to analyze than those who didn’t try the age. J-PAL also didn’t include observational research, primarily based on trainer surveys of ways tons of their college students had discovered. They tend to expose plenty more nice effects. That doesn’t imply the technologies don’t work; they just haven’t been fastidiously examined.

The stop product is an August 2017 working paper, “Education Technology: An Evidence-Based Review,” posted with the aid of the National Bureau of Economic Research with clean tables on which generation improves learning and which doesn’t. I talked with Quan and every other co-author of the paper, Maya Escueta, a graduate scholar at Teachers College, Columbia University (The Hechinger Report is an independently funded Teachers College unit). Three big subject matters emerged.

1. Computers and net access on my own don’t enhance learning

Handing out laptops, providing excessive-speed net get admission to, or buying maximum other hardware styles doesn’t on its very own raise academic effects. The research indicates that student success doesn’t mean upward thrust when kids use computer systems more, which occasionally decreases. On the other hand, the J-PAL researchers found that scholars with computer systems use them extra and become more adept at clicking and typing. So it remains an open query whether tech-savvy students could be higher workers in the future, even supposing they’re not higher students now. While hardware alone isn’t making children smarter, college students need computer systems and the net to apply academic software. And some of that does work.

2. Some math software program shows promise

Exactly 29 software program research met J-PAL’s standards, and 20 of these confirmed at the least some degree of getting-to-know development (see desk 2, pp. 30-37). The ones that tended to expose high-quality outcomes were frequently in one subject: math. Rising to the pinnacle were math programs inclusive of SimCalc and ASSISTments. One famous application, DreamBox, showed small gains for college students as well. Only one software program that taught studying, Intelligent Tutoring for the Structure Strategy (ITSS), showed promise, suggesting that it’s far feasible to create a correct instructional software program outside of math, but it’s much harder.

One commonality of the software that seems to work is that it, by some means, “personalizes” training. For example, sometimes college students begin with a pre-test so the computer can determine what they don’t recognize and then send each student the right classes or a series of worksheet troubles to fill the gaps. Other times, the laptop ascertains a pupil’s intervals as he works through problems and makes mistakes, giving personalized remarks. Teachers additionally get information reports to help pinpoint where students are struggling.

The J-PAL paper cited that ASSISTments advanced 7th-graders’ math rankings in Maine when college students spent the simplest 10 mins a night at the software, 3 or 4 times a week, as homework. Teachers didn’t change their existing lesson plans or textbooks to include it. With the aid of assessment, other education software regularly imposes its curriculum or calls for teachers to modify how they teach.

“We had the heart to expose ourselves” to randomized management trials, stated Neil Heffernan, the inventor of ASSISTments and a professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts. Heffernan’s business technique is uncommon within the education technology enterprise. He financed the improvement of this software program with federal funds and offered it away unfastened to schools. The federal authorities, via the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, additionally foot the invoice for the studies to see if his software program improves math education.

Heffernan now has presents to test whether or not the Maine results can be replicated in North Carolina and whether teachers can be educated on a line to apply the machine throughout the country, mainly in more urban settings. But the effects of these studies willn’t be regarded for some other four years, he said. The more a software program is studied, the more likely it is to get blended results. The most researched software program became Cognitive Tutor, an entire math teaching curriculum that asks college students to spend 40 percent of their elegance time at the computer. The J-PAL researchers located nine rigorous studies of it. Some had been high-quality. Some confirmed no benefits. A 2017 study in 8 U.S. States discovered no use in the first year of implementation; however, true consequences in the 2nd year. Teachers decreased the variety of encouraging sports performed throughout the non-computerized part of magnificence.

3. Cheap can be effective

Low-cost technological interventions, especially text message reminders, had been fairly powerful with college students and dads and moms. “It’s not necessarily the most expensive or complex technology that makes a distinction,” J-PAL’s Quan instructed me. “Even text messages will have a measurable effect on academic effects. It’s now not flashy. Sometimes, you don’t want all that flash and gimmick.”

One instance is an examination in San Francisco in which texts reminded mothers to study for their preschoolers. That boosted youngsters’ literacy scores. “We see that texts paintings when it’s a helpful nudge for something they want to do,” Quan’s colleague, Escueta, stated. “You can’t alternate attitudes with texting.” This column was written by Jill Barshay and produced through The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, impartial information corporation centered on inequality and innovation in training.